BYisrael: Give us Tobago's community testing data

Minority Councillor Dr Faith BYisrael -
Minority Councillor Dr Faith BYisrael -

Minority Councillor Dr Faith BYisrael is calling on Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine to reveal the number of community samples tested for covid19 in Tobago.

BYisrael's request comes after the Prime Minister announced the first phase of the reopening of the country, allowing food establishments; restaurants and street vendors to do business.

“Are we really basing our reopening on data?” BYisrael asked in a Facebook live video on Tuesday.

At a virtual news conference on Monday, Davidson-Celestine said data was being used in the Government's approach to tackling covid19.

Davidson-Celestine said: “The phased reopening of Trinidad and Tobago is based on data and that is what is driving the process at this time, driving the process in Tobago scenario and driving the process in the Trinidad scenario. And so at this point in time in Tobago, we have no suspected cases and for some time now we have not had any confirmed cases. From the information that I have seen, it is the same with Trinidad as well, but if over the next few days, the next few weeks we have cases coming forward then we would have to revert to the situation where we had originally.”

The health secretary said community surveillance had started "in order to obtain a picture" of what was taking place.

The testing will be done at health centres, at the Scarborough General Hospital and through active case findings.

Responding to this new info on Tuesday, BYisrael said she was heartened to hear the secretary talk of data.

“That is how it should be done and that is what I have been advocating for all this time – that we use data, that we use evidence to make our decisions and that we don’t just make our decisions on the fly, we don’t just make decisions on whatever, we make our decisions based on data, based on the available data and based on what we know makes sense,” she said.

BYisrael is, however, questioning whether Tobago has sufficient data on community testing.

Speaking earlier in the day, CMO Dr Roshan Parasram announced that as of last Saturday, a total of 687 community samples had been submitted and returned negative.

BYisrael is calling on those with responsibility for Tobago’s healthcare to indicate how many of the 687 samples came from Tobago.

The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy leader said she was shocked to hear TRHA general manager of primary care Dr Roxanne Mitchell say there was a mandate to increase swabbing "not necessarily for covid19" but for other flu-like illnesses. Mitchell said people swabbed for covid19 will instead be required to go to the tent outside the Accident and Emergency department.

BYisrael was livid.

"The pandemic that we have in front of us right now is covid19...The point of doing the community surveillance is to ensure that we do not have covid19 running around in the communities. Having tested a decent portion of the population, we can then say with confidence that we have controlled the spread in Tobago, in TT, which is why we can now lift our restrictions.

"I listened to the press conference and was pulling my hair out because…what they are saying makes no sense whatsoever…these people are mad. So the 687 samples that were taken and are negative that the CMO spoke about, how many of those are from Tobago? Is it that any of those are from Tobago?”

BYisrael said Trinidad data must not be used to make decisions that affect Tobago.

“I am hoping those numbers reflect Tobago...Specifically, we could now say that of the 687 tests that were done and all negative – 30 of them, 50 of them, whatever the number – came from Tobago. Because that would be the only justification for us to open TT, because we are sure about what is happening on the island.

“Coming from a data-driven perspective, having tested 687 people, I would say it is okay to start opening up, to start easing some of the restrictions, because we have not had a positive test in a while.”


"BYisrael: Give us Tobago’s community testing data"

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